The topics were diverse, but every issue that members of the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) took to Capitol Hill last month sought to give people or institutions the right to opt into or out of something.
The visits—part of the association’s annual spring meeting in Washington—concluded with visits to Congress that pushed three goals:
• Reinstating the opt-out in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Lead: Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule (LRRP);
• Preserving the deductibility from income taxes of interest paid on mortgages; and
• Backing the Marketplace Fairness Act, which allows a state to collect sales tax from online retailers that do business within its borders.
NLBMDA has been seeking the LRRP opt-out for several years and even went to court to get it put back into the rule. But the other measures were new to the “ask” list. Both are likely to be wrapped up in bigger debates over the the federal budget.
Association members have consistently protested the tightening of government regulations on the private sector and the resulting boosts in operating costs for dealers and other small-business owners. That message was endorsed by Rep. Bill Johnson, a Republican from Ohio. He echoed concerns that LRRP’s heightened compliance costs—given the absence of an opt-out provision—would stall contractor sales.
According to the EPA, the opt-out provision’s removal added $336 million in compliance costs, some of which fell to the 41 million homes that the association says fall under the rule’s jurisdiction but don’t house pregnant women or children. A bill introduced in the Senate earlier this year seeks to reinstate the provision as well as make commercially available field test kits that report no more than 10% false positives.
“We want to protect people from lead, but when the EPA retroactively alters a rule … there is a serious problem,” Johnson said, referring to the agency’s July 2010 removal of an exemption to its rule letting remodelers working on a project that would expose lead paint to forgo compliance if they could prove no pregnant women or children live in the home.
Dealers reported mixed results as to whether they’ve noticed stronger enforcement of the regulation by the EPA in their state. “It’s really a state-by-state issue,” NLBMDA chair Chuck Bankston told ProSales.
As for Washington’s unending budget fights, one idea seeks to kill the provision that lets homeowners deduct from their taxable income the interest they pay on home mortgages and home equity loans. But Ben Gann, head of NLBMDA’s legislative affairs, called that tax credit “the cornerstone of American housing policy. ... That needs to continue.”
The Marketplace Fairness Act goes after online retailers like Amazon Supply. Analysts predict such firms could become significant competitors to dealers.—Hallie Busta